Tuesday, March 5, 2013

William and Marilyn

I happened to come across a quote that one of my daughter's teenage friends happened to post on Facebook. While teenagers pilfer, corral and otherwise re-parcel quotes from everywhere in cyberspace to fill their status boxes on this social media powerhouse, this one seemed especially poignant. It read:

"The nicest thing for me is sleep. Then at least I can dream."

The quote is extremely sad in and of itself; it expresses the unstated reality that we cannot dream unless we are in the passive state of somnambulance, that life itself has too many intrusions, obstacles, disappointments and setbacks to allow time to dream. When you find out that the author of this quote is one of the more tragic figures in 1950s Hollywood, it becomes even sadder. This quote about impossible waking dreams comes from Marilyn Monroe.

I tried to find where this quote came from, but I mainly stumbled upon its use as a banner ad to advertise all things Marilyn and her lonely life. I found wall art sayings on Amazon -- one measuring 22 X 11 and in black vinyl. I found ghostly YouTube shrines galore to Marilyn, with the quote pasted on black screens before a cornucopia of images of Marilyn in all her loveliness and those of her sudden demise.

And, yes, it leads off every website of famous quotes from our wax-sculpted blonde bombshell, just before other quoted remarks from Marilyn exclaiming how important it for families to tell their daughters how pretty they are or about how "respect is one of life's greatest treasures" or how "well-behaved women rarely make make history."

But this quote about the absence of dreams in life seems to be in an unsettling category unlike others. If you did not know they came from Marilyn, you'd think they were from an angry, bitter, resentful person who had not in the least fulfilled dreams or even exalted in fantasies. That they came from arguably the Hollywood legend we most like to put on our pedestals today offers its own form of jarring dissonance.

It may be kin to Shakespeare's famoust soliliquoy from "Hamlet":  "To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub." In that verse, Hamlet is considering suicide after learning that his uncle, Claudius, killed his father, but he wonders whether taking his own death will offer an escape from his mental anguish or give him the peace he needs. The ghost of his late father, the late king of Denmark, haunts him. But in his impassioned soliliquoy, Hamlet realizes that revenge is the best antidote, because the sleep of death dashes any dreams, for "for what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil."

Maybe Marilyn saw "Hamlet" before uttering her famous words that are now memorialized as evidence of this starlet's unhappiness, as we continue to glean life lessons from her passing 50 years ago last August. Or maybe she had a fit of rage that led to this observation, as many believe her death was by accidental overdose and not suicide. Who knows. But to think that Marilyn Monroe and William Shakespeare share a link is interesting enough. Madness may have entered the house of both Hamlet and America's favorite transcendent sex symbol.

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